The Night King On 'Game Of Thrones' Isn't A Villain, According To The Showrunners

If there's one thing that Game Of Thrones Season 6 did with frightening efficiency, it was clear the deck. As expected, several beloved characters met cruel fates. (RIP Hodor, Rickon, Margaery.) But what was unexpected was how many of the show's biggest and longest-running villains joined them in the grave. (Don't RIP Roose and Ramsay Bolton, the High Sparrow, Walder Frey.) As the show enters its final two seasons, the writers are clearly making room for their final Big Bad: the Night King. At least, that's what most of us probably assumed. But according to showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Game of Thrones ' Night King isn't a villain at all.

Wait, what? I'll let Benioff and Weiss explain. In an interview with Deadline, the co-creators of the show were asked a question about their "most formidable villain" — a qualifier which Weiss was quick to correct. "I don’t think of the Night King as a villain," he said. "He is not like Joffrey, or Ramses [sic] … To me, evil comes when you have a choice between that and good, and you choose the wrong way. The Night King doesn’t have a choice; he was created that way."

So if the Night King isn't a villain, what is he? "In some ways, he’s just death, coming for everyone in the story, coming for all of us," Weiss continued. "He’s just a force of destruction." As such, the showrunners have no intention of humanizing the Night King as a character. "What's death going to say?" Weiss asked rhetorically. "I don’t think we’ve ever been tempted to write dialogue for the Night King. Anything he said would be anticlimactic."

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While some of us assumed that, as the show's Final Boss, the Night King would get fleshed out — that we would get more backstory on him, and perhaps even visit his home in the Lands of Always Winter in Season 7 — that doesn't appear to be the case. Rather, it seems as though the Night King will remain more a force of nature than a flesh-and-blood character. He's a metaphor of the inevitable death that comes for everyone, good and evil alike. A ticking clock counting down the seconds until the destruction of Westeros — and the endgame of the show — begins.

If this news is disappointing to those who had hoped the Night King might become the next in a long line of fascinatingly complex Game of Thrones villains, Benioff and Weiss offered some consolation. Apparently, there's another antagonist who will be getting plenty of development next year: Mad Queen Cersei. While Season 6 ended with the childless widow claiming the Iron Throne for herself, Season 7 will in large part be devoted to watching her truly come into her own as an outright villain after several years of flirting with anti-hero status.

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When asked how ruthless of a ruler Cersei would prove to be, Weiss answered: "Not to give a frustrating answer, but that’s what so much of next season is going to be about; finding out what Cersei’s mind-set is. Who is she? While Cersei has certainly done a lot of horrible things in her life and she could be a very cruel person, the one thing that was redemptive about her was, she genuinely loved her children. Now they’re all gone, and I think that is very interesting for us. Who is she without her children? The answer is something you’ll find out next season."

And is next season still going to be abbreviated? That's another question that's probably burning in a lot of fans' minds. And sadly, the answer is yes. Although HBO has yet to announce an official episode count, Benioff and Weiss seem committed to their plan of two shortened final seasons. "It’s two more seasons we’re talking about," Benioff said. "From pretty close to the beginning, we talked about doing this in 70-75 hours, and that’s what we’ll end up with. Call it 73 for now."

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But the showrunners continue to maintain their stance that, in this case, less really is more. "We’re trying to tell one cohesive story with a beginning, middle and end," Benioff explained. "We’ve known the end for quite some time and we’re hurtling towards it. Those last images from the show that aired last night showed that. Daenerys is finally coming back to Westeros; Jon Snow is king of the North and Cersei is sitting on the Iron Throne. And we know the Night King is up there, waiting for all of them. The pieces are on the board now … and we are heading toward the endgame."

The only question that remains is: Will any pieces be left standing when the game is over? Or will death come for them all in the end?

Images: HBO; Giphy (3)